‘For circularity to develop, we need circular logic’
January 30th, 2023Back to posts
January 30th, 2023Back to posts
‘I was overwhelmed. I’m merely one of the many cogwheels in the WEEE recycling clockwork. At the same time, I believe that the award rewards the WEEE plastics recycling industry as a whole and, in that sense, I see it as a wonderful recognition for the work that WEEE plastics recyclers have been doing to get where we are today.
I must also thank my wife Els. She gave up her career to accompany me abroad when we become an expat family. Els allowed me to spend far too much time away from home and even accepted it when I often worked on at home.’
‘I was working in the production of electronics when the WEEE Directive was introduced. So much of the production was relocated to the Far East I was confronted with a choice to move there as well or find a different route for my career.
Then I met Mike Biddle (MBA Polymers) and Christian Müller-Guttenbrunn (MGG) in one of our production facilities back in 2004 and I was impressed by their plans to recycle plastics from WEEE in an industrial process. So when I did have to choose a new career route, the logical choice was to contact Mike and that’s how I got into this fascinating world of WEEE recycling. It was a completely new industry with a different language and culture.’
‘The development of the WEEE plastics recycling industry is a fascinating story with many hurdles and problems but it has its successes. It’s still a young industry but we have managed to develop processes and a market for post-consumer recycled plastics from WEEE even within high-tech markets. Today these recycled plastics are used in high-tech applications, even by the company I used to work for, and market demand today is greater than we can produce. So you have to ask yourself, why is that the case? Why is the majority of the WEEE plastics disappearing in undocumented channels, why are companies reluctant about investing in this industry, when the demand for these recycled materials is there?’
‘Many policy makers are fundamentally caught in a linear thought process – not all, certainly, but many. Yes, there is a circular action plan. And yes, there are some reasons to celebrate. But we also see that waste is often seen as a problem and not as a potential valuable resource. Of course, it is a problem if not managed correctly. It means the best way of solving this e-waste challenge is to make sure that it is managed in a proper way.’
‘I’ve done many presentations about what I call the non-toxic discussions regarding restricted flame retardants. How can it be that the legislator is imposing ever lower thresholds for certain substances, so low that they cannot even be measured within the daily recycling practices. This is because the legislators still think of linear processes. In a linear process, this is not a problem, you simply don’t add restricted substances. But in recycling this is a different matter, as we deal with legacies. For circularity to develop, we need circular logic instead of linear thinking.
And from a supply chain point of view, products, goods, people and money can move freely across borders but waste cannot. I still find it amazing what hurdles are put in place for WEEE to be moved to compliant recyclers, even in Europe and even so beyond the continent.’
‘Despite all the challenges, it is great to be part of a completely new industry, in which innovations are taking place regularly. It’s fantastic to see that we are now able to produce recycled plastics from WEEE with an increased relative thermal index, something that no-one could envisage only a few years ago. This allows recycled e-scrap plastics to be used in new appliances with high operating temperatures.
It’s also fantastic to see that it’s possible to develop ever more new post-consumer recycled plastics from the wild mix of WEEE plastics. In the past couple of years, we’ve introduced three different new plastic types – PC/ABS, and two new types of PP – with different fillers produced fully from e-scrap plastics.’
Source: Recycling International, January 30, 2023